Wednesday, 30 September 2015 09:23

Nocturnals frontwoman Grace Potter Goes Her Own Way

Written by  Eric Mitts
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Grace Potter Grace Potter COURTESY PHOTO

Grace Potter
w/ Rayland Baxter
Kalamazoo State Theatre
404 S. Burdick St, Kalamazoo
Oct. 25, 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show
$39.50 Orchestra and mezzanine, $34.50 balcony
kazoostate.com, (269) 345-6500

When Grace Potter stepped offstage from singing “Gimme Shelter” with Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones earlier this year, she felt like she had just completed a rock‘n’roll triathlon.

And in a lot of ways she had.

In the months leading up to that larger-than-life performance, the powerhouse singer had crossed two equally monumental milestones in her career. She had finished up recording a daring new LP, and she had just made the difficult decision to go solo.

“It goes beyond that pinch yourself moment and it becomes something that’s just humbling,” Potter told Revue about playing with the Stones. “It’s a reality check of where you’re at in life when something like that happens.”

After 12 years of touring and recording with her band The Nocturnals, Potter has had her fair share of surreal, life-changing experiences. From singing with country superstar Kenny Chesney on his hits “You & Tequila” and “Wild Child,” to working in the studio with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.

When it came time to make a decision about whether her new album, Midnight, would be another release for the Nocturnals, or it would be hers alone, she secluded herself in a cabin. There, she listened to Midnight’s final mixes and reflected on the experience of making the record with her longtime Nocturnal bandmates serving as some of her session musicians — alongside producer Eric Valentine and a slew of guests including The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne. From there, she made the choice to fly solo on this one.

“As this record was happening, and as I was writing it, I still was staunchly digging my heels in and making it a band [record],” Potter said. “But at a certain point it was clear that I was wrapping my head around it because the songs were coming from me in a way that the Nocturnals’ sound couldn’t necessarily support.”

Known for their classic rock sound — largely inspired by Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Band — Potter and the Nocturnals broke through with their 2010 hit “Paris (Ooh La La),” after earning a loyal following on the festival circuit where they regularly jammed with the likes of Gov’t Mule.

But as she was writing and demoing Midnight in her home studio in Vermont, Potter found herself exploring other sides of her earliest musical influences, remembering the pure fun she had as a kid listening to pop acts like Blondie and Madonna with her mom.

Starting with the anthemic single “Alive Tonight,” Potter wrote all the songs on Midnight herself and all along the way she fiercely fought off any outside pressure to cater to easy fads or industry gimmicks.

“People have come up to me and said, ‘I have your gazillion-dollar track,’” she said. “And they play it for me, and I’m like, ‘Well first of all, it sounds like a f***ing tampon commercial. Second of all: No. And third of all, I can write my own songs thank you very much.’ But that’s just my nature. That’s how I grew up.”

Now backed by a new, bigger band, Potter will bring Midnight out on the road this fall for a run of shows that will be unlike any she has done before.

“There’s this new energy with all of these amazing musicians that I’ve wanted to play with for years,” Potter said. “I hate to use the word more because it’s not like, bigger, better, Texas-style. It’s more like so many more layers, depths and dimensions … even [on songs] from some of the earlier records. It’s a profound thing to revisit the music and let it be what it once was, and let it be more than that and channel that power into a live show.”

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